How to Use a Sewing Machine

Maybe you’ve been handling all your sewing projects by hand until now, and you’re ready to take a faster, more efficient approach to sewing. Or perhaps you have been using a machine for a while but want to learn more about the process.

Either way, learning how to use a sewing machine is a great skill to have. Sewing machines can assist with a range of textile jobs, helping you to fix torn fabrics and create amazing things with sewing patterns in minutes.

Of course, while sewing machines may look simple at first, they’re actually sophisticated tools, brimming with unique gears and mechanisms. If you’re ready to get started with your own sewing machine, and you want to learn how to make the most of it, you’re in the right place.

Before You Begin

Learning how to use a sewing machine can be a fun process, and a great way to expand your skills. Sewing machines make it easy to handle a range of fabric projects fast.

Before you start to learn how to sew, we recommend checking the manual that comes with your machine. This instruction guide should show you the basics of how your new machine works, and it will introduce you to some of the parts you need to be aware of.

An initial instruction guide should introduce you to where the power switch is, so you can turn your sewing machines on. The guide should provide information on how you should connect the foot pedal to the machine to support your sewing project. Once you know how to turn the machine on, and where all the components of your new device are, you can begin to explore the features of your machine.

Keep in mind that different devices do have some unique components to be aware of. It’s usually a good idea for beginners to introduce themselves to sewing machine basics slowly. You don’t have to jump straight into practising your first stitch.

Exploring the Basics

For beginners, the best place to start is often with getting to know your device. There are tons of different kinds of sewing machines out there, and they each come with different components. The good news for a beginner is that most solutions will have similar elements to them. Listed below are some components to look for.

Thread Guide

The thread guide directs the thread from your spool at the top of the machine into the bobbin case winder. This piece of metal will usually appear on the top left of the machine.

Bobbin Winder

On the right of the spool pin on the top of the machine will be another plastic or metal pin next to a small wheel. These features are the bobbin winder and stopper, which work together with your needle threader to prepare your device for sewing seams.

Stitch Adjustment Buttons

Stitch adjustment buttons are the components on the back of the machine, on the side, or on the top which allow you to adjust your stitch. There’s usually a screen alongside these buttons which shows you the different kind of stitches you can create. It will also show the length of the stitch and its direction.

Thread Take-Up Lever

When you’re ready to thread the sewing machine, you can wind the thread from the thread spool at the top through the thread guide and around the take-up lever. This lever comes with grooves cut in, and it’s usually on the left of the sewing machine.

Tension Dial

The tension wheel is a small numbered component on your machines next to the take-up lever. When you thread the machine, this device is responsible for controlling the tension of your thread. If your tension is too tight, it will pull your needle to the right. If the tension is too loose, the thread will loop on the bottom of the fabric.

Needle Clamp Screw

This is is the part of the machine which holds the needle in place while you sew, it usually appears under the sewing machine arm. It looks a bit like a large nail.

Presser Foot

This is a metal part beneath the needle clamp. It is designed to hold your fabric in place and guide it through the machine over the needle plate during a project with computerized sewing.


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Presser Foot Lever

Practice lowering and raising the presser foot to ensure that it’s moving correctly.

Needle Plate

This is the silver plate just underneath the needle.

Using Your Sewing Machine

Once you’ve found all the components of the sewing machine that you need to use, get a spool of thread, and locate the bobbin release and bobbin cover. Let’s get started.

1. Installing the Needle

Place your machine on a sturdy counter, table or desk, and sit in front of it, arranging the machine so the needle is on the left, and the remainder of the machine is on the right. Use your instruction booklet to find the sewing machine step by step guide on how to install the needle correctly.

Remember, needles have one flat side, which often needs to go towards the back. Make sure the groove in the needle is facing the direction where the needle is threaded. Install the needle and tighten the screw securely before you start.

2. Threading the Sewing Machine

As a beginner, it might surprise you to learn that modern sewing machines use two sources of thread. When you learn how to use a sewing machine, you’ll need to use both a top thread and a lower thread. The lower thread is the thread on the bobbin. You can wind this thread by placing it on the bobbin winder on your sewing machine, wrapping the thread around the guide and to the bobbin.

The bobbin is the small spool at the bottom of the sewing machine, and it supplies the thread required to add the backing to your stitch. You should see the bobbin cover under the metal plate where the needle is.

Winding your thread is the first sewing machine step, but make sure you follow the instructions provided. Threading the sewing machine is often the most complicated part of using a sewing machine for a beginner, so make sure you watch a video if that’s helpful.

3. Getting Started

When you’re ready to move to the next step in using a sewing machine, hold the needle taut and make one complete needle down-up movement by using the hand wheel. Pull the needle thread you’re holding with your left hand.

The bobbin thread should have been captured when you moved the needle. Pull the side of the loop to bring the bobbin thread tail out. You should end up with the ends of two threads, one from the bobbin and one from the needle.

Make sure your hands are away from the needle and turn the machine on. There will usually be a light that shows you when power is going to the machine. Choose the kind of stitch length you want and decide if you want a straight stitch or something else. Plug the pedal into the machine and place it in a comfortable position under your feet.

Can I Teach Myself How to Sew?

With beginner sewing machines, it’s much easier to practice your skills these days.

Teaching yourself how to sew is possible. There are tons of sewing machine step by step guides out there, and you learn to sew using video tutorials as well. However, it’s important to remember that you probably won’t start sewing perfectly overnight, it takes time to find out what works.

Practise Makes Perfect

If you’re working on a sewing machine for beginners, dreaming of a future repair shop where you can do everything from lock stitches to a reverse stitch, start small. Practice a straight line stitch to begin with, with a medium stitch length. Check your instruction manual for tips on how to do this for your machine. Hold onto your seam allowance until you’ve mastered different types of stitch.

Carefully set the stitch up and practice on scrap material, and pull the fabric carefully, practising the speed you need to stitch at. When you’re lining up the fabric underneath the material, try to sew with the bulk of the fabric on the left of the machine.

Lower the presser foot on your sewing machine onto the fabric and give the fabric a gentle tug when the presser is down. The machine should be holding your material quite firmly. The feed dog under the presser foot will move the fabric automatically as you’re sewing, so you shouldn’t need to pull the material through the machine. Doing this could damage your needle.

For the first few stitches, you may need to hold onto the loose ends of both threads to keep them from retreating into various types of stitch. After you’ve finished a certain number of stitches, you shouldn’t have to use the manual approach to hold the thread anymore.

As you get started, it’s best to go slow when you use a sewing machine. Learning how to use a sewing machine is simple for some, and more complex for others. As a beginner, take your time to check out some sewing machine how to use videos and try to avoid going too fast.

Press the foot pedal slowly as you complete your sewing machine work. Consider experimenting with different stitch length and style options with the buttons on the side of the machine. Different machines will come in different styles. It’s best to avoid any complex types of stitching when you get started initially.


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Keep an eye on the thread tension when you start sewing using zig-zag or straight lines and check the manual for any special steps you might need to take with certain types of stitches. Keep in mind that your sewing machine might not have a pedal foot component, but a knee bar instead. If you have one of this type of machine, just push the lever to the right slowly.

Remember, no matter what types of stitch you’re using, your sewing machine will pull the material gradually away from you, so practice with different kinds of threads and stitches until you feel comfortable that you’re moving at the right pace. Beginners often start with straight stitches, and it’s essential that you don’t try to force the fabric. Pulling the material when it’s moving through the machine, as this can harm the needle or clog up the bobbin.

Making the Most of Your Sewing Machine

There’s plenty of guidance out there for people who would like to learn how to stitch with different threads and styles on a sewing machine. Today’s sewing machines are designed to be simple enough to use for beginners, although there may be some more complex options out there for those who want advanced stitches. Make sure you do your research before buying anything.

Different Stitches

Once you’re comfortable with straight stitches, you can start experimenting with zig-zag stitches, and different patterns, making sure that you keep the tension right and avoid going too quickly with your foot pedal at any point. Always be careful with your stitches when your hands are close to the machine’s components, and the needle. Although most sewing machines are safe enough, it’s easy to catch your fingers when you’re practising your straight stitch for the first time.

Reverse Stitch

Remember to consider practising reverse stitches and sewing when you feel confident enough, too. This changes the direction that your stitches move in, so your machine moves the fabric towards you instead of away from you.

Final Thoughts

If you feel confident that you know how to use a sewing machine effectively after you complete a few stitches on your scrap fabric, you can start to explore other options. Hopefully, this sewing machine guide will help you with your first stitching projects.

Remember, when trying out DIY sewing projects as a beginner, it is best to work on scrap fabric as much as possible at first. Using scrap materials avoid wasting your special or expensive fabric on tests with your sewing machines.

Best of luck in learning more about your machine. Let us know how you get on!

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